Cultural appropriation and the Jews

Irving, West, the Black Israelites, the Nation of Islam and their ilk have no choice but to demonize the Jews, because Jewish endurance and legitimacy expose the fraud at the heart of their invented identity.

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour addresses the U.N. Security Council on Aug. 8, 2022. Source: U.N. TV.
Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour addresses the U.N. Security Council on Aug. 8, 2022. Source: U.N. TV.
Caroline B. Glick
Caroline B. Glick is the senior contributing editor of Jewish News Syndicate and host of the “Caroline Glick Show” on JNS. She is also the diplomatic commentator for Israel’s Channel 14, as well as a columnist for Newsweek. Glick is the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington and a lecturer at Israel’s College of Statesmanship.

On Monday night, an Egyptian television reporter covering the World Cup tournament in Doha, Qatar was assaulted by an angry mob and forced to leave the games to avoid being lynched. The mob assaulted him because they mistook him for an Israeli reporter.

Qatari officials were reportedly embarrassed by the incident. They weren’t embarrassed about the crowd’s violent anti-Semitism, though. The Qataris were embarrassed because their officials hadn’t believed the poor Egyptian when he insisted he was one of them. And so, they stood by as the mob gave him the “Israeli treatment.”

From the moment they touched down in Doha to cover the World Cup, Israeli reporters have been showered with hatred. Jeering fans scream “Palestine” at them and block them from broadcasting. They are cursed, threatened and hounded as they walk down the thoroughfares. Israeli reporters are thrown out of taxicabs, denied service at restaurants and assaulted. The main assailants are Arabs from Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and beyond, but European fans have invariably been just as hostile.

Every time an Israeli reporter identifies as Israeli, their interlocutor shoots back, “Palestine, Palestine, there is no Israel! Only Palestine!” Palestinian flags may be the most popular ones at the games.

Yediot Ahronot reporter Raz Shechnik described the treatment he and his colleagues have suffered in posts on his Twitter feed over the weekend, and reflected on how it has changed the way he views the nature of the Arab world’s conflict with Israel.

As he put it, “I became sober-minded here, for the first time. I was always a centrist, liberal and open minded, with a great desire for peace first and foremost. I always thought the problem [between Arabs and Jews] was the governments, the leaders—including ours. But in Qatar I learned just how pervasive the [Arab] hatred is among the people on the street, how much they wish to wipe us off the face of the earth. To what degree everything connected to Israel stirs up harsh hatred.”

Shechnik’s testimony, as well as videos showing the harassment he and his colleagues are suffering, raise the issue of the connection between support for Palestinians on the one hand, and mob violence and harassment of Jews, on the other. Why do people who attack Jews use “Palestine” to justify their behavior? And why do people who support “Palestine,” think that mob violence against Jews is justified?

The reason, while hard to accept, is nonetheless obvious. Mob violence against Jews is related to pro-Palestinian positions because they are manifestations of the same thing: antisemitism. This is the reason that pro-Palestinian activists from Paris to New York, London to Los Angeles assault Jews. This is the reason that Palestinian-supporting politicians and prosecutors tend to avoid prosecuting these assaults and Palestinian supporting media outlets tend to downplay their significance.

At its core, the Palestinian narrative is nothing but the appropriation of Jewish nationhood, culture, history, heritage and faith. Among progressives, a person is considered guilty of cultural appropriation if he belittles or otherwise ignores the cultural roots of a phenomenon. For instance, if someone mentions an ethnic food without noting its origins, they can expect to be vilified as a bigot.

The Palestinian cultural appropriation of Judaism and Jewish peoplehood takes cultural appropriation to a completely different level.

For the past 3,500 years, Jewish heritage, faith, nationhood and history—in their entirety—have been wound up with the Jewish people’s connection with the Land of Israel. Jews simply cannot explain, or even understand themselves in the absence of the Land of Israel. Dig a few inches below the surface in any place in the Land of Israel and you will find archeological evidence of the Jewish people’s millennial ties to the land. Go into any synagogue or Jewish school in the world and you will find evidence of this basic reality.

The Palestinian national narrative is based both on a blanket denial of Jewish history, heritage, nationhood and faith and the appropriation of all of them by the Palestinians. PLO chief and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas insists that the Palestinians are the biblical Canaanites. His predecessor Yasser Arafat said the Palestinians are the Jebusites. Never mind that neither group has existed for 3,000 years.

At the same time, they insist there is no connection between the Jews of the Bible and the Jews of today. Palestinians systematically destroy archaeological sites throughout the land of Israel to wipe out the historical record. History is then rewritten based on the political and propaganda requirements of the revised, entirely fabricated history of today’s Palestinians.

This is the reason that the Palestinians refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist, at all costs. Their fake history will be indefensible if they acknowledge that Jews are indigenous to the land of Israel, that Israel isn’t a colonialist outpost but the only homeland the Jews have ever known, one to which they retained their attachment over 2,000 of exile and dispossession by the imperial powers across history. The Palestinian cause only makes sense if Jewish history, nationhood, heritage and faith are denied and Jews are demonized for refusing to accept their erasure.

This total cultural appropriation of Jewish existence by the Palestinians is a supreme act of Jew hatred. And those who support the Palestinians support the erasure of Jewish existence across time. Since the Palestinian narrative has been so ingrained in the cultural life of Western elites and progressives, it is often difficult to recognize the annihilationist Jew hatred at its core. To make this clear, we can turn to another form of antisemitism predicated on the cultural appropriation of Jewish existence.

The Jew hatred of Black Israelites, the Nation of Islam and their supporters is similarly based on the theft of Jewish identity. Both the Nation of Islam and Black Israelites insist that the Jews are the “spawn of Satan.” The true Jews, they insist, are American blacks. Last week, more than a thousand uniformed Black Israelite men marched through Brooklyn from Grand Army Plaza to Nets Stadium chanting, “Hey Jacob, it’s time to wake up. I’ve got good news for you. We are the Real Jews!”

The march took the crowd of Jew haters through the largest Jewish communities outside of Israel.

The Black Israelites were marching in support for Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who was suspended from the NBA for spewing Black Israelite-based anti-Semitic propaganda, in the course of which Irving recommended an anti-Semitic film that, among other things, denies the Holocaust.

The storm that arose among black anti-Semites in response to Irving’s suspension makes clear just how central antisemitism is not only in the narrative of the Black Israelites, but in the lives of those who either identify as Black Israelites or ascribe to their fabrication of black history in America.

Not only did throngs march in support of Irving and his antisemitic world view, but also rapper Kanye West. Once considered courageous for his public opposition to abortion and support for then president Donald Trump, in recent weeks he has replaced his conservatism with antisemitism based in the Nation of Islam/Black Israelite theft of Jewish heritage, history and faith and appropriation of that heritage, history and faith to black Americans.

The notable aspect of West’s behavior is that whereas Irving issued a groveling apology for his antisemitic outburst, West doubled down. In every public appearance since he openly defended Irving’s anti-Semitism, West has not only restated his antisemitic positions, he has expanded on them, and escalated his attacks on Jews as a people, a community in America, and as individuals. In redefining himself as an antisemite first and a rapper and public figure second, West has chosen to associate himself most closely with other antisemites, particularly white supremacist Nick Fuentes.

West’s decision to act as a bridge between black antisemitism, which is generally associated with the progressive political camp, and white supremacist antisemitism, which is generally associated with the political far right, exposes a much-ignored but fundamental fact about antisemitism: it isn’t a political position. It is a cultural outlook; a way of understanding the world. Antisemites hail from the political left, center and right. They come from all religions. Their antisemitism directs their politics. Consequently, antisemitic policies have advocates in all political camps.

This brings us back to the Israeli reporters in Doha.

Black Israelites and the Nation of Islam, which base their identity on the appropriation of Jewish identity, comprise a small but powerful minority of the black community in America. They impact the Congressional Black Caucus and other key black power centers, which in turn impact the Democratic Party. And while their cultural and political power are growing, they are still limited.

In contrast, embrace of the Palestinian narrative is all but universal across the Arab world, across the wider Muslim world and across large sections of the Western world. It is nearly universally accepted in Europe and by progressives in America. All of the people who accept and champion the Palestinian narrative accept the validity of a political cause that is entirely based on the appropriation of Jewish peoplehood.

Shechnik and his fellow reporters were stunned to discover the truth about the war against them as Jews, and against their state. The antisemitism that animates their antagonists in Doha has nothing to do with who leads Israel’s government or what the Israeli military does in any given war or operation. Support of the Palestinians, and their goal of wiping Israel off the map, is rooted in Jew hatred, shared by billions of people across the world.

The Palestinians are popular because they provide a vehicle for expressing and advancing that hatred, including in the halls of power across the world. Israel’s endurance is unacceptable, because simply by surviving, simply by having reporters to send to cover the World Cup in Doha, the Jewish state proves that the Palestinian narrative is untrue, and based on a rejection of observable reality and the historical record, not on justice or truth.

Likewise, American Jews are stunned to discover that black antisemitism, like Palestinian-predicated assaults on Jews from Peoria to Miami, has nothing to do with who is in power in Israel or whether American Jews identify with progressive or conservative politicians and causes. It has nothing to do with whether or not American Jews are willing to accept “white guilt.”

Irving, West, the Black Israelites, the Nation of Islam and their ilk don’t hate Jews because of anything any particular Jew may or may not think, say or do. They hate the Jews because they have stolen Jewish history, heritage, nationhood and culture and appropriated all of them to themselves. Having done so, they have no choice but to demonize the Jews, because Jewish endurance and legitimacy expose the fraud at the heart of their invented identity.

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